Schools ready for election, plug property millage increase

By: 
Oct. 23, 2012

Officials have made 50 community presentations about its one-mill referendum in the past six weeks, in preparation for Election Day.

BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR

In the Volusia County School Board’s final meeting before the 2012 elections, board members used their time on the pulpit to rally, one last time, for support on the district’s one-mill property tax referendum.

“I think we’re at a crossroads here in Volusia County,” board member Candace Lankford said, to start the Tuesday, Oct. 23, meeting. “I have to be perfectly honest: I am so focused on our local issues ... that I really haven’t been paying much attention to the national agenda.”

Facing a $25 million minimum deficit heading into the 2013 school year, the School Board has cut almost 2000 employees, 976 of whom were teachers, since 2007, to account for revenue shortfalls.

The board’s one-mill county property tax increase would raise $26 million annually — enough to support 250 teacher jobs.

“This is really an investment in your future,” Lankford said. “I believe we’re at a tipping point ... and we would ask you to look into your hearts and understand that this is an investment in our students, and in our future.”

She also called the school system the “lynchpin for economic development,” a point echoed in Superintendent Margaret Smith’s statements.

“The quality of our county depends on the quality of our school system,” Smith said. “Economic development and a quality school system go hand in hand.”

She also said that the toughest part of promoting a ballot item is combating “misinformation.” School officials have made about 50 presentations throughout the county in the past six weeks to educate community members and answer questions.

“(Revenue losses) have certainly impacted student achievement,” she said, “and that’s what this is really all about: (ensuring) that our district will remain a quality school district, and that our students will have all the (tools) they need.”

Board Vice-Chairwoman Judy Conte also noted that if the referendum is rejected, “We’re going to need to think about cutting art programs, and that would really just be a travesty.”

“We are good stewards,” Lankford added. “We understand the importance of education in our future ... and we plan to put all of the money into the classroom.”

The four-year millage levy, if passed, would mean an extra $5 per month for homeowners with houses valued at $100,000, after exemptions.

For more, visit www.myvolusiaschools.org/1mill.

In other news

The School Board also approved the following personnel changes.

Office specialist Michael Jones has resigned from Seabreeze High School, where Samuel Farmer has been hired as a custodian. Teacher Mary Sawyer was transferred from Pathways Elementary to Osceola Elementary.

Ormond Beach Middle Schools’ Shelley Wood, and Seabreeze High School’s Jeff Lilley, Sr., were also two of 26 total nominees for the Superintendent’s Outstanding Achievement Awards, which honor support staff for “demonstrating outstanding commitment, teamwork, cooperation and innovation in the workplace.”

Marsha Hartman, from Atlantic High School, and Bexaida Leiba, from Pine Ridge High School, were the winners of this award.

Financial aid

The Prince of Peace Catholic Church Knights of Columbus donated $500 to the exceptional student education program at Ormond Beach Middle School.

Pine Trail Elementary School was donated $800 for its special area programs, from Pine Trail Elementary’s Parent-Teacher Association. The school was also given $500 for recorders for its music department, from Peter Linek, of Port Orange.